Haunted Voices

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“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” (William Shakespeare)

This film is as estrogen-filled as they get. Voice revolves mainly around female characters who are later revealed to have a number of internal conflicts bothering them to the point that it tears them apart internally; they implode. Implosion is mostly the case for a stereotypical ‘woman’, who is expected to carry her problems with grace. Things go ugly pretty slow, but when it gets to the ugly, it’s as bad as it gets. There are several things that can be said about Barbara Creed’s ‘monstrous feminine’ and Linda William’s take on the power of feminine desire.

Asian horror films are very well known for their effectiveness when it comes to scaring the socks off of people. I have also noticed that for the most part, the monsters in the film are often children or women, and although they seem smaller in structure than most movie monsters, they pack a punch. Maybe there is something that triggers within a viewer once presented with a monstrous threat that does not look like it can do much. I think it can be connected the monstrous feminine that Creed talks about. It disturbs us more psychologically because we are not used to women or girls being the ones that hold the power in the films and in a sense, viewers are castrated while the movie monsters are invincible in their femininity. The very action of making the monster less physically imposing (size-wize, because often times the monsters look really creepy) Voice is exactly that. The narrator is extremely unreliable, and the threats in the film are not so great in proportion. There is less gore and less violence in this movie than most of the ones that we’ve watched but it remains effective because although the scares aren’t exactly so imposing, it turns stereotypes around and so we are put in a state of abjection; in a world where women are portrayed as weaker, Voice shows that this weakness is only at the shallow point of the character’s being and that women who are scorned have a more twisted way of dealing things. They go behind your back and play with your psyche whereas with male monsters, it is direct to the point, bloody and often linear.

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Traditional Innkeeping

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The Innkeepers was, in my opinion, the most ordinary horror film that we were able to watch in class.

Enter Claire, a sweet, asthmatic, college dropout and Luke, a geeky dude who drives an old beat-up car who seems to take a liking to Claire. Unfortunately, the Yankee Pedlar Inn, in which they work in, is about to close up shop for good and leaves the two with nothing left to do but tend to the Inn as it goes through its last several days. The pace was slow, the characters were quite the common kind. Eventually out of boredom, the two decide to go deeper into an urban legend about the very Inn that they work for and that is where the horror slowly, but surely starts creeping in.

Not many can be said about the plot from there. It was indeed a very traditional horror movie in a sense that the scares were quite predictable. The use of sound was extraordinary, as the film introduced most of the scary scenes through the sound; you could hear the horror coming. There was abjection there in the sound in a sense that it took the viewers only as far as the sound could, leaving them in a sort of, helpless stance when the ghost would pop out of nowhere. There was of course, the damsel in distress, who was embodied by sweet, asthmatic Claire, a mystic, Leanne-Rease Jones, the hero (or at least he tried to be), Luke and the resident ghosts and eerie old persons that brought the freaky to the screen. The female gender role was not twisted in any way with Claire being thrown into the fray knowing that she might not make it. With a tub suicide on the list and an angry old spirit to boot, The Innkeepers was in every sense of the word, ordinary horror, taking the haunted house-type horror film without taking any new steps or reducing any ingredient that made it the way it usually is. Nevertheless, The Innkeepers was still quite enjoyable and the scenes were still effective besides the fast that in hindsight, viewers could already predict what was about to happen. It was a good change of pace after watching two heart-attack inducing movies, REC and REC2.

Lingual Claustrophobia

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I have watched Pontypool before the film was assigned in class. If abjection means to be “cast-off” or to be separated, taken back and be isolated from what can be experienced, then watching Pontypool is like wearing blinders in the middle of a highway in the dead of the night: you don’t know what’s going to hit you until it’s right in front of you. Abjection is everywhere in Pontypool.

Small-town abjection: First of all, the setting of the film is in a small town in Canada. There’s nothing like abjection in a small town when it comes to horror movies. I was immediately tugged by curiosity as to what was happening everywhere else in the world. The film got its viewers stuck in Pontypool, Canada, in the middle of a blizzard, while some kind of word-virus goes around like wildfire, infecting everyone with a brain. I felt like I was literally stuck there and separated from the rest of the world. I was on the edge of my seat. I knew there was something going on, but what I knew was only limited to how far the film took me. And yet I knew that there was something big out there, I just couldn’t grasp it.

Radio station abjection: Second, the film brings viewers into a deeper trap and throws them into not only a small town, but even deeper into a single radio station; where the main characters are trapped themselves along with the viewers. The characters were only as informed as what they could hear on the radio. You can imagine how unnerving that is for people who work for a radio, a prominent source of media and current events, to only know so much about what was going on. Little by little, the plot thickens and the virus spreads even more, causing havoc even inside the station. Though they had an idea of what was going on, they were still only limited to what they could experience in their immediate area.

Virus abjection: Finally, there is the ‘word-zombie-virus’ that was the star of the show. The film was able to portray abjection in a most unexpected manner; through language. Language is supposed to be something that brings people together, but Pontypool managed flip right through it, giving the term ‘lost in translation’ a whole new, deeply chilling level. It is here that language is taken and made into something that literally separates the victim from everything, stripping him of his own capabilities and turning him into a mindless, self-destructing hunk of meat.

Much can be said about the movie Pontypool, but above all things it was able to give me such a claustrophobic experience and that just summed up the whole abjection theory for me.

Odd, Odder, Oddest

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And the Oddest Movie of the Semester award goes to, May.

May is so painfully awkward that for most of the scenes in the movie I had a difficult time watching not because of the possibility that her doll would come to life (because the movie was sort of pushing the viewers to think it) but because May was such and odd girl. Apart from the fact that she was odd, she was also usually put in strange situations such as her workmate, Polly, was an aggressive lesbian (not that anything was wrong with that, May just seemed to be a mismatch with her), tried to take advantage of her numerous times in the film, her boss was a middle-eastern man whose accent was so thick they could barely understand him and the fact that she works at an animal hospital, which goes to show how little human contact May had with the rest of the world. Every time she did, it was weird.

The horror comes in early on, actually. May is introduced as a strange one because she grew up ostracized because of her lazy eye and her mother was a little bit on the odd side as well, having given her the doll and telling her that if she can’t find friends, she should make one. Now, I don’t know if May took it a bit too literally or the mother was just a little nuts herself.

Apart from the ugly-duckling-turned-psycho theme, eventually, the movie showed some aspects that also reflected gender theories about film. Here is a hapless woman who happens to be extremely knowledgeable about amputation and uses it against the people that had irked her. With that, May, who was once the victim of society, turned it around and made a bloody mess of things. I think that is where the typical horror starts pouring out. On the other hand, there are also domestic and psychological elements that plunge into the mix. The latter being the ones that disturbed me the most because for all we know, somewhere in the world, this could be real and there is real horror in daily life as well. It’s just that it’s not all the time that they turn extremely violent just as May had shown.

Playing With Your Food

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My interest for vampire movies has been quite damaged because of the sudden take over of the Twilight movies. I’m not saying they were terrible, it’s just that I was not quite impressed by what they had done with the vampire character. Let The Right One In on the other hand, as much as it has a tinge of  romance, actually hit the spot. The monster was maintained throughout the entire film and the other themes of the story such as mystery and romance had not suppressed her monstrosity, which I think is a good thing, because Twilight turned vampires into pseudo-x-men that shine in daylight.

On account of Linda Williams and Barbara Creed, Let The Right One In was also able to twist the female gender category effectively by reversing the damsel in distress role through making the monster a girl. Not even a woman, a girl. A character that in most cases, is tender, fragile and prone to weakness. Although they made the girl the opposite of what the gender category groups her in, Eli somehow maintained an air of weakness behind her vampirism; she was still only just a girl and she was lonely. As the movie progressed, she grew into liking her next door neighbor, a boy named Oskar, who seemed to have been emasculated because of the fact that he was always bullied and his father was not around. Eventually as the two met and their relationship had blossomed, they each filled in their own gaps. Though Eli was a vampire, Oskar was able to look over this and remained her friend throughout the ordeals that she went through in the movie. Even as Eli went on a feeding frenzy, Oskar stuck with her and gave the ‘girl’ side of Eli the attention that it needed. So even as Eli was seen as a monster, she was able to be a girl at the same time. Eli on the other hand, was, in a sense, able to give Oskar the ability to overcome his over-submissiveness and become a ‘man’ and fight back. So with what started as playing with her ‘food’, which is what Oskar is as a matter of fact, Eli and Oskar ended up having a mutual, giving relationship. Let The Right One In was a good movie, in my opinion, because it was able to retain the sinister nature of vampirism, blood and supernatural elements at the same time turn the typical female role around from damsel in distress to monster and slide in a little tenderness that can only be found in young love.

 

A Reaction to REC

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I have always had a thing for zombie movies because of the way it gets my heart racing over a chase or something that is hiding somewhere and is waiting for you to get there. Fact of the matter is, everything is quite predictable, but it plays with your head in a way that it tries to makes you think otherwise, but it does what you think it would anyway. Like it’s dangling a treat in front of you and pulls it away, but you know it’ll let you have it in the end. For some reason there’s something fulfilling about thinking that you get a situation right. Last, last Tuesday’s film showing was not the first time I got to watch REC. Well, not really. I’ve watched the American version, Quarantine. But there was only a fraction of a difference between the two films. One difference I immediately noticed was that in Quarantine, there was a dog in the apartment; a big, rabid, flesh-hungry dog that was not seen in REC at all.

That aside, watching REC (Or Quarantine for that matter) for the first time was very unnerving for me because it was filmed in such a way that gave me a very strong sense of reality through the limitations of the camera; I was trapped in an extremely vulnerable state because I had no idea what was going to happen next and what was around me save the fact that I can see what is in front of me. I felt like I was part of all the horror happening in that alternate reality.  I have always been adverse to horror movies, but Rec was one of the, if not the only horror movie I actually enjoyed because for some reason it had not left any haunting remnants in my head that would keep me up at night and because it seemed to allow me to enter into the situation with a realistic set of eyes through the Cameraman.  And the best part was I got out of that zone unharmed. I loved it, really, though I won’t deny I was scared.

There were no elements in the movie that gave me anything to feel too disturbed about (but I’m not saying a situation like the one that REC presented isn’t disturbing at all. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t freak out if they were trapped inside their house with SWAT and medical teams keeping you inside and away from any sort of information at all.), which was good because Deadgirl really left me with a bad taste in my mouth and it still makes me cringe every time I think about it. For a zombie movie, Rec had it all covered. Blood, guts, an illness taking over hapless victims, pretty girl running around covered in blood, suspense all around and it even had a little extra by throwing in a religious element in the mix. Overall, it was a fun scare. I really enjoyed REC and I would watch it again.

Parallel Horrors

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At every turn of the plot, the film kept me anticipating what kind of trouble JT and Rickie would get themselves in to; going for the wrong girl, dilly-dallying in and old, abandoned nuthouse, going in to rooms that were clearly barricaded for a reason and eventually giving in to desire, specifically sick ones that are against any ethical code that exists. But allow me to say that even through the occurrence of supernatural forces, the events that had passed in that film were still very human.

Enter the two lead characters, JT and Rickie, who seem to have nothing great waiting for them at the end of the road. They want to escape from what they are going through and leave the reality that they are living in. Rickie, who is in love with a girl who can never be his, tries to get out of his situation by more or less doing what has to be done, and actually worked towards getting Joann Skinner to like him. JT however turns to a dark path by creating a little world around deadgirl, despite having his best friend completely condone his actions. The traditional element of horror in this film is achieved precisely through of JT’s fixation on deadgirl, who is obviously a zombie of some sort, and the fact that deadgirl could come lose at any point in time  and attack people. There is also an element of horror that is seen through some sort of parallelism between the things that JT and Rickie are going through and the how the human mind reacts to certain situations.

JT represents how giving in to desire can take a wrong turn. His own personality reflected how deadgirl was; it was asleep for who-knows-how-long and after being provoked repeatedly by his own demons, it wakes, and his decisions after that just kept burrowing deeper into his own grave that he unknowingly dug for  himself. He spiraled out of control. His psyche had become a mirror image of deadgirl. It got sicker and sicker by the hour destroyed everything in its path and took other people with it. He wanted to be part of something that he thought he could control. He prodded at it until it became his end because he chose not to suffer the life that he was living. Rickie on the other hand  represents the area in giving in to desire that shows how a person can choose to do what is right, but be burdened by the collateral damage of what came out of the situation. The sad thing is, he gave in anyway and kept Joann like deadgirl.

That being said, the real horror for me is how real people are more capable of doing horrible things than deadgirl, who did not seem to choose the situation she was in. The boys however, could have chosen to do otherwise but chose to give in to their sick desires anyway. The film maintained that depressing theme until the very end.